The Fela Sermon

Posted by Ed Tue, 18 Sep 2007 00:11:00 GMT

CKUT 90.3 FM is the student radio station of McGill University in Montreal. It’s available online and they have some good shows including Dromotexte, a weekly hour dedicated to poetry and the spoken word. It’s hosted by Fortner Anderson who is a good poet but a terrible presenter. But he does have an extraordinary collection of poetry performance recordings.

Here’s an example from a recent show: the (presumably Nigerian) poet Lesego Rampolokeng with a piece called The Fela Sermon inspired by the great afrobeat musician and activist Fela Kuti.

You can hear Fortner reading his poem I’m A Man if you like. It’s strong stuff.

learning the epistemology of loss

Posted by Ed Tue, 11 Sep 2007 10:11:00 GMT

There’s something about the clipped and refined tones of the poet John Berryman which makes me laugh, particularly when he’s describing the existential anguish of a young boy coming to terms with the loss of a ball.


What is the boy now, who has lost his ball,
What, what is he to do? I saw it go
Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then
Merrily over–there it is in the water!
No use to say ‘O there are other balls’:
An ultimate shaking grief fixes the boy
As he stands rigid, trembling, staring down
All his young days into the harbour where
His ball went. I would not intrude on him,
A dime, another ball, is worthless. Now
He senses first responsibility
In a world of possessions. People will take balls,
Balls will be lost always, little boy,
And no one buys a ball back. Money is external.
He is learning, well behind his desperate eyes,
The epistemology of loss, how to stand up
Knowing what every man must one day know
And most know many days, how to stand up
And gradually light returns to the street
A whistle blows, the ball is out of sight,
Soon part of me will explore the deep and dark
Floor of the harbour . . I am everywhere,
I suffer and move, my mind and my heart move
With all that move me, under the water
Or whistling, I am not a little boy.

Listen to the recording of John Berryman reading this poem if you like, and have a laugh at the expense of all little boys.